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Ref makes it three-card trick

BLACKPOOL referee Mark Cowburn is unlikely to figure on the Racecourse Christmas card list after Brian Carey became his third Wrexham red card victim of the season on Saturday.

BLACKPOOL referee Mark Cowburn is unlikely to figure on the Racecourse Christmas card list after Brian Carey became his third Wrexham red card victim of the season on Saturday.

Cowburn, who sent off Martyn Chalk and Darren Ferguson amid scenes of controversy during the home match against Colchester United in August, also alleged that Ferguson kicked the ball at him - an incident which has yet to be resolved by a Football Association of Wales disciplinary hearing.

Given the circumstances, it might have been politic not to bring Cowburn and Wrexham together again until all the dust had settled, a point reinforced by the fact Carey's dismissal after 55 minutes at Boundary Park was not as clear cut as it seemed.

A turning point it certainly was when the defender, who had been booked only minutes previously, seemingly tugged Stuart Balmer as he met a John Sheridan corner. The Red Dragons' skipper was shown a straight red card, even though a second yellow would have brought a similar outcome.

Predictably, no-one on either bench admitted to having a clear, unimpeded view of the incident but when Sheridan stroked home the penalty to give the home side a 2-1 lead, ten-man Wrexham were left with a mountain to climb.

Latics' boss Mick Wadsworth later claimed justice had been done. "We had already had one blatant penalty appeal turned down so when the second one came I was relieved and Sheridan took it very well," he said afterwards.

"I didn't see exactly what happened but I was champing at the bit because at first I thought Stuart Balmer had missed an easy chance with his header."

The sending off forced a reshuffle of the Wrexham pack, striker Hector Sam making way for Dennis Lawrence, yet Oldham were forced to back-pedal for long spells as their opponents surged forward in search of an equaliser. Inevitably, they left gaps at the back and eventually paid the price when substitute Carlo Corazzin, a long-time scourge as far as Wrexham are concerned, put the outcome beyond doubt deep into added time.

It had looked very different at the beginning of the afternoon as the relegation-haunted Dragons made an enterprising start, carving out three scoring opportunities in the opening five minutes.

Sam volleyed a difficult chance wide from a Shaun Holmes centre, Ferguson's rising shot was well held by goalkeeper Paul Rachubka and Lee Trundle, back after a three-match suspension, drove another effort just off target following a good run by Jim Whitley.

And the visitors cemented their superiority by taking a 12th-minute lead. Whitley did the spadework with a foraging run into Oldham territory before feeding Andy Morrell, who clipped the ball beyond the 'keeper from 15 yards to notch his first league goal in ten months.

The one-way traffic could not last, however, but Wrexham coped so well with the threat posed by winger David Eyres and striker John Eyre that the home side's equaliser after 34 minutes came out of the blue.

From the visitors' point of view, it was a poor goal to concede, especially since the defence had two bites of the cherry to clear Scott McNiven's cross from the right. Carey met the danger with a header high into the air and was followed by Steve Roberts, whose weak header fell nicely for Paul Murray to thump a firsttime effort past Kristian Rogers.

Within two minutes, the visitors might have restored their lead with Whitley again getting forward to deliver a curling centre which Morrell flicked against the foot of the post, and the Wrexham striker gave Rachubka another scare after 43 minutes, the 'keeper back-pedalling furiously to clutch a looping header as it dipped under the crossbar.

But Oldham, too, spurned a good opening to take a lead going into the break when a superb through ball from Sheridan split the defence for Eyre to drive his shot inches past the post. The home side's lacklustre performance in the opening period was forgotten as they wrested the initiative from the re-start. Eyres was given an early opening but shot weakly at Rogers and Mick Duxbury drove a speculative effort just too high before their pressure was rewarded by the 55th-minute sending-off and subsequent penalty.

Wrexham, though, seemingly fired by the perceived injustice, hit back strongly with Morrell firing wide when Lawrence flicked on a Ferguson free- kick. And Oldham were doubly indebted to goalscorer Murray after 68 minutes when the midfielder cleared a Roberts header off the line as Rachubka floundered.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, the visitors looked the more positive side and the final minutes brought wave after wave of assaults which, for all their promise, summed up Wrexham's failure in recent matches to take their chances.

Substitute Craig Faulconbridge, who came on with four minutes remaining, was soon on the end of a cross from Trundle but his header lacked the power to trouble the goalkeeper and his strike partner, whose overall performance probably reflected a touch of rustiness caused by his spell on the sidelines, then produced a vintage tight turn only to see his right-footed shot curl away at the far post.

In the four minutes of added time, both Roberts and Lawrence were virtually camped in the Oldham penalty area, Roberts displaying remarkable footwork before trying his luck with a shot that Rachubka gratefully clutched to his chest, Martyn Chalk also went close with a long-range effort and Morrell saw his effort skate across the box. And Wrexham paid the penalty when Corazzin, back in action for the first time since a double hernia operation, ran through the middle unchallenged to meet Matthew Tipton's pass and comfortably beat Rogers.

OLDHAM ATHLETIC: Rachubka; McNiven, Balmer, Beharall, Armstrong; Appleby (Rickers 82), Sheridan, Duxbury, Murray; Eyres (Tipton 86), Eyre (Corazzin 74). Subs: Baudet, Holden.

WREXHAM: Rogers, Holmes, Carey, Roberts, Whitley, Phillips ( Faulconbridge 86), Ferguson, Thomas (Chalk 62), Sam (Lawrence 57), Morrell, Trundle. Subs: Walsh, Edwards.

BOOKINGS: Wrexham's Carey and Roberts. SENT OFF: Carey (55).

REFEREE: M Cowburn (Blackpool). ATT: 5,451.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
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